Jesonian … April 7th, 2018


 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Every story is better told and more effective when the facts are allowed to line up in a reasonable order.

Such is true of the Gospel of Jesus.

Theologians spend so much time proclaiming him the Son of God that they lose the fragrance and uniqueness of the Son of Man. In an attempt to make the tale “super” they lose all of the “natural.”

The average person going to church is deluded by an array of facts which just don’t add up to a crucifixion.

One of those great misconceptions is that Jesus was extremely popular. There were certainly occasions when his crowd appeal spiked, but it always revolved around three stimuli:

A. Was he doing miracles?

B. Was he feeding people?

C. Did it look like he was the Jewish Messiah?

Whenever the populace became convinced through these three “signs and wonders” that God was going to save them from the Romans, they rallied around Jesus. Whenever it was obvious that he was intent on sharing a more universal message which included people that were not Jewish, they slipped away.

Let’s look at some facts:

1. Jesus was rejected by his home town, Nazareth, and never able to return again. Not only was he ignored, but threatened with death–dangled from the edge of a cliff.

2. Even though Jesus held a great revival in Samaria with the testimony from a woman at a well, when he returned to the city, he was forbidden to enter by the town fathers because they found out he also ministered to the Jews.

3. When he fed the 5,000 in Galilee, the hordes followed him for a while–until he told them this was not a food pantry, but rather, that his words and life were the message they were supposed to “eat.” They all departed–except for the twelve.

4. Over and over again, interest sparked with the Pharisees, but when Simon, one of their number, invited him to a special meal, the Pharisee snubbed Jesus and treated him like an outsider.

5. After the resurrection, it is recorded that over 500 people saw Jesus–witnesses of the miracle. But on the Day of Pentecost only 120 remained. Kind of a drastic drop-off.

I guess we feel the need to believe that Jesus was greatly appreciated by the people in his generation, and taken to be crucified only by a handful of powerful critics.

It’s just not true.

We are told that most of the time he dealt with twelve disciples–and he focused on three of them, to be the core leaders. We have some idea of the size of a normal following of Jesus when the scriptures let us know that he sent seventy out to share in his name.

If you are trying to give credence to the message of Jesus by pointing out how enthralled the Jewish community and the Roman oppressors were, then you will be sadly disappointed when you read the actual accounts of his mistreatment and the number of individuals who desperately tried to ignore him.

We’re even told that John the Baptist’s disciples did not believe in him.

Jesus had a model. It’s very simple: Develop a hot core of followers and let them radiate the message.

Nowadays we are so eager to build up numbers in the sanctuary that we fail to build up people. Jesus basically spent three-and-a-half years working on twelve human beings.

  • One of them betrayed him and killed himself.
  • Another denied him, and was prepared to leave the work.
  • Yet another one doubted that a resurrection was possible.

Do not despair–Jesus suffered the same slings and arrows of human apathy that you and I encounter every day. He just had a great system. So when he left the planet, there was a handful of people who knew what he taught, knew what he stood for and were prepared to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to give them the power and insight to take the Gospel to the whole world.

*****

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Good News and Better News … January 8th, 2018


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3546)

Bethel United Methodist Church in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Although I’m not privy to your traveling plans, it does seem unlikely that you will ever make your way to darken the doors of this particular sanctuary. I did–just yesterday morning.

With a day that folks from Wisconsin would call “brisk” and those from South Carolina deemed “polar ice cap,” some very faithful locals gathered in the building to see what the weather and the road had brought to them via our humble efforts.

It started the day before, when Wally, Johnny and Collin arrived to help us set up, and all of my equipment, which had been sitting in the back of the van, tried to “fuzz out,” insisting it was Floridian. Overcoming those little missteps, we got all hooked up, and by Sunday morning, the Holy Spirit, resilient fellow that He is, arrived in a parka.

These are beautiful people. They are delightful human beings that the political parties take for granted, and the more snotty members of our society deem to be “simple.”

It’s a huge mistake. They are full of integrity; they have hearts which can be moved with the notion of a loving God, and after a considerable amount of time, they are even willing to embrace odd-looking strangers like Janet and myself.

As I sat and chatted with these adorable brothers and sisters, I was struck by a usable idea. All during my childhood and even in my adult years, I have been encouraged by society to “find my voice.”

Yes, “find your voice.”

But yesterday it struck me that this notion is the misconception that’s driving our problems into the ditch. People are trying very hard to find their own voice, and when all these individual voices speak together, what we have is” Tower of Babel II.”

Life is not about finding your voice–it’s about finding the voice.

The voice is humble, encouraging, respectful, open-minded, free of prejudice and also gentle and kind, with good cheer.

I suppose if you sat down all the people of Bethel United Methodist and had a political discussion, they might be at each other’s throats in three minutes.

That’s why we should never do that. We should take all things pertaining to government–“Caesar”–and let them stew in their own juices.

What we need to think about are the things that belong to God.

I’ve stopped trying to find my voice, and I’m looking for the voice. It is a voice that:

1. Encourages others.

2. Knows when to shut up.

3. Doesn’t repeat information unless there’s a personal experience.

4. Looks for a reason to be kind.

5. Quotes things that lift people up.

6. Refuses to accept complaining as natural.

7. Notices when things get better.

This morning I feel as joyous as a new baby colt. (They are joyous, aren’t they? I would think so.)

Because the good news is, I got to spend time with Wally, Johnny, Collin and the blessed souls of Bethel.

And the better news is, I got to practice once again finding The Voice instead of insisting on promoting mine.

 

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Jesonian … December 16th, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

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A day in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Although most theologians would like to focus on the 24-hour period leading up to his crucifixion, the Gospels do offer us other examples. One of the primal outlines is found in Matthew, Chapters 12 and 13. You may feel free to read it–I will not tax your spirit or patience by parsing it verse by verse–but there are six things that become clear from perusing the story line.

1. Jesus was not a theologian.

His disciples walked through a field of corn, and even though it was forbidden by religious edict to eat it–especially on the Sabbath–they partook. Jesus defended them to the Pharisees, who were ready to leap upon the activity to prove the unworthiness of Jesus’ Kingdom movement. During this exchange, Jesus makes a profound statement: “The Sabbath is for man.”

It is geared for us, in order to replenish, rejuvenate and renovate our thinking.

2. Jesus was not a rabbi.

He strolls into a synagogue and disrupts the service by healing a man with a withered hand. He is accosted for this untimely interruption, and replies, “Each one of you will save a donkey from a trench, but you won’t do anything to help this fellow.”

Yes, Jesus was guilty of interrupting the flow of worship.

And contrary to the common patter:

3. Jesus was not a Jew.

Not only did he break the Jewish laws, taunting them in doing so, but we are informed that he was a voice, a spirit and a teacher in whom the “Gentiles could trust.”

Even though his proximity to Jerusalem might generate the assumption that he was a Son of Abraham, he made it clear that he was around “before Abraham.”

Shall we press on?

4. He was certainly not a traditionalist.

The religious leaders believed he was satanic. They swore he was casting out demons by the power of Satan. Of course, none of them could cast out a demon, but Jesus made it clear that he had come to destroy the works of the devil and that they needed to be careful not to mock the moving of the Holy Spirit just because it was inconvenient to their case.

So Jesus is not a theologian, a rabbi, a Jew or a traditionalist. And by the way:

5. Jesus was not a family man.

When interrupted by his mother, brothers and sisters during a time of ministry (because they wanted to take him home, thinking he was crazy) Jesus turned to the crowd and claimed them as his new family.

Yes, Jesus might find it difficult to be in a church service, welling up over allegiance with people simply because of shared DNA.

So as Matthew describes a day in the life of Jesus, when he defies theologians, upsets a rabbi, walks away from Judaism, breaks traditions and sidesteps family involvement, he ends the discourse by establishing who the Nazarene really was.

For the Master sat down and told a story: “The sower went forth to sow seed.”

6. Jesus is a sower.

He’s not concerned about isolating off perfect soil, but merely casting the seed in the direction of any possibility.

A day in the life of Jesus will let you know that his message was human, geared for humans, addressed to humans, human-friendly and human-saving.

He discarded religion in favor of the reality of those souls God sent his way.

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Good News and Better News… October 2nd, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3448)

She was a sweetheart.

During my two presentations at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Clermont, Florida, I got a chance to meet this delightful woman.

She bounced up to my book table and engaged in conversation. About halfway through our exchange, her face got a little more serious and she asked me, “How do we rate? I mean, you go to places all over America. How would you rate our church?”

I knew she wanted a serious answer, yet I wasn’t going to placate her nor was I going to try to place some burden on her heart by pointing out an inadequacy.

“You’re kind of right in the middle,” I said.

She started to smile, then squinted and replied, “Well, that’s not very good.”

After nearly forty-five years of traveling America and sharing in a vari=ety of venues, many of them churches, I will tell you what makes a good church. It begins and ends with the word “generous.”

One of the most chilling statements Jesus offered to his disciples, and to us who would follow his message, was “to he who much is given much is expected.” So it’s a little optimistic to think that you’ll receive eternal salvation while lounging on a heavenly hammock. So here are the three things that make a great church:

1. Generous space.

Sanctuaries are too cramped. They’re confining. This stifles the sensation of freedom. Since your church probably is not filling up the sanctuary for every service, take come pews out. Create room. Make people aware that they have the freedom to extend their legs and arms. Give children a place to crawl.

Clear everything unnecessary from the platform. There should be room for three or four people to stand side by side easily.

If you give air to the room you give air to the people to give air

2. Generous face.

If you’re not going to talk to someone, don’t peer from a distance. It’s creepy. And when you walk up, don’t stay too long, but do make eye contact while you’re there.

We met a fabulous brother named Joe at Shepherd of the Hills. He was not an “average Joe.” He was loving, giving, kind, and made us believe that we had a primal place in his present consciousness.

No one expects you to be a counselor or long-lost friend from high school, but grant folks the dignity to enter your generous space and receive your generous face.

3. Generous grace.

You have no right, privilege or scriptural authority to probe into the lifestyles of those who worship next to you. Share the Gospel of Jesus and let the Gospel do its work. The Holy Spirit is much more adept at convicting people than you are with your gossip. I don’t care what you hear about people. I don’t care what you think about people. At no time do you, I or anyone else have the permission to judge anyone.

It is possible for any church in America to become a Jesonian church–a Jesonian Catholic, a Jesonian Baptist, a Jesonian Methodist, a Jesonian Lutheran, a Jesonian Pentecostal–but it requires you to take on the heart of Jesus instead of pounding your favorite theological nails.

The good news is that Shepherd of the Hills Church has this delightful lady who is not willing to subsist in the middle.

And the better news is, if you make your church a generous space with a generous face, offering generous grace, you will grow.

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Jesonian… June 24th, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

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“Go.”

But where?

Into all the world, Jesus said as he was about to ascend into Heaven.

Although most theologians like to focus on the Ascension based upon Jesus’ arrival to “sit at the right hand of God the Father,” I would like to discuss what we have called the “great commission”–to go into all the world.

Was it not actually the ludicrous commission? After all, Jesus had traveled with his twelve disciples for three-and-a-half years. He knew they were Jewish, bigoted, disrespectful of women, indifferent to children and completely bound to their home base. How could he possibly anticipate that these immovable religious boys could ever take a message anywhere?

There were three keys to the success of the early church:

  • The Holy Spirit
  • The Apostle Paul
  • The destruction of Jerusalem

If you remove any one of these elements, Christianity becomes a cult of Judaism, therefore suffering the fate of the Jews when the Romans destroyed their Temple.

Peter, Andrew and John had no intention of doing anything but hanging around Jerusalem and aggravating the Pharisees. (You may notice that I left out James because early on he mouthed off and lost his head–literally.)

So the Holy Spirit arrived on the Day of Pentecost and gave Peter the boldness to speak about the murder of the Messiah in front of Jews visiting from all over the known world. Three thousand of them were saved that day, went back to their homes and began the process of reaching the entire planet.

Meanwhile, a Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus became quite adept at killing Christians, therefore terrorizing them. He was on his way to crippling the movement when Jesus signed him up on the road to Damascus, to take the message to the Gentiles. Why? Because the original twelve were not going to do it.

And even though Paul was a Pharisee, he was a rabble rouser–a fire-brand of intellectual and spiritual energy. He found himself criticizing the original disciples because they would not eat with the Gentiles, deeming themselves better.

Paul took the Gospel to the Greeks, and since the Romans always followed everything the Greeks did, they made excellent evangelists. He ended his life in Rome, teaching, knowing that the Romans were going to reach the Germanic tribes and the Germanic tribes would evangelize the Angles and Saxons, and the Angles and Saxons were going to climb into boats, land on rocks near Plymouth and begin a new nation called America, which would generate the technology to reach the whole world.

To ensure that those “stay-at-home disciples” would eventually leave Jerusalem and follow in Paul’s footsteps, Jesus warned them about the coming destruction of Jerusalem–to make sure they left town before the Romans arrived with their deadly foreclosure.

By 70 A. D. there was no Jewish synagogue, race or movement. Christianity survived because the followers of Jesus literally “headed for the hills.”

In the process of touting the power of prayer, the value of meditation and the worth of Bible study, we need to understand that Jesus intended us to be a “go” people.

He wanted us to view the world as a whole instead of just our little village, and he desired that his children would be the most tolerant, non-bigoted, caring and clever people on the face of the Earth.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … May 3rd, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Tell You What

I know Jesus

You know Jesus

They know Jesus

We know Jesus

Seize us

Please us

Tease us

Do you need us?

What’s the fuss?

Is he one of us?

Hop the bus

Please don’t cuss

Put your trust

Where you must

Dust to dust

Kill the lust

Become a nerd

Read the Word

What’s absurd?

Use Jesus

Abuse Jesus

Jews for Jesus

Cruise with Jesus

Who is the man?

Tell me if you can

Holy Spirit fire

Or just a simple “tryer”

Make him my own

Me and me alone

Stop working so hard

Use your human card

He loves you as you are

Truth will take you far

You can make it

Just don’t fake it

I’m strong when I’m weak

I inherit with the meek

Me and Jesus

Jesus and me

We’re born human

We’re both free.

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Jesonian… March 11th, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Buyer’s remorse.

It is that eerie sensation that seeps into the human heart when the realization that the passion for the project, the person or the purchase has lost some of its original gleam due to the passage of time, and perhaps even the accumulation of disappointment.

It happened to a disciple named Philip.

He was one of the fellows on the ground level of the Kingdom Movement. Matter of fact, it’s believed that he was a disciple of John the Baptist and popped up right after Jesus popped out of the Jordan River.

He was thrilled. He was one of five of the Apostles present for the changing of water to wine. He was so encompassed with the potential of this new experience that he sought out friends, like Nathaniel, and told them that the Messiah had been found, and “come and see.”

But two-and-a-half years later, when there were five thousand hungry men in front of him, and Jesus put him on the spot, asking how Philip intended to feed all those people, he freaked out, explaining that it was too expensive, and ended up feeling like a fool when Jesus found a way.

So on the night of the Last Supper, a weary, flustered and maybe even disillusioned Philip posed a suggestion:

“Show us the Father, Jesus, and it will be enough for us to continue to believe.”

He is rebuked.

Jesus asked him why, after all these years of being in the presence of the Teacher and the teaching, he did not realize that to be part of this beautiful anointing was to be with the Father.

Philip had buyer’s remorse. He was not alone.

  • Judas betrayed Jesus in an extreme fit of buyer’s remorse.
  • Peter denied and decided to go back to fishing before being personally interrupted by Jesus, once again on the seashore.
  • And as you know, Thomas had his doubts.

This problem happens when what we expect is not delivered. It’s why many Christians have a Baptism certificate and a brief story of their salvation, but very little contentment brought about in their Earthly lives.

Jesus was both–he was both a Savior and a motivator.

Most of the churches in America preach him as a Savior. Those who don’t, but rather, present him solely as the motivator, fail to offer his saving grace and forgiveness. But it’s the balance.

Although your church will be quick to tell you what Jesus will do for you, they are not honest about what he will not do:

1. Jesus is not going to take away the problems.

He said, “In the world you have tribulation.” It’s not going away. But your defense is to be of good cheer.

2. Jesus is not going to do all the work.

He said, “You are the light of the world.” Men are going to see your good works. And it is up to each and every one of us to multiply our talents.

3. Jesus also wants us to know that salvation is not a one-time experience.

The remission of our sins is a cleansing, but we continue to experience the “graces of salvation” over and over again, as we walk faithfully through the power of the Gospel.

4. Jesus does not have favorites.

Although the religious system may tell you that the Jews are the “chosen people” or that Christians have become the new “royal priesthood,” Jesus said, “in the Kingdom of God there is neither Hebrew nor Greek, Jew nor Gentile.” God just does not look on the outward appearance.

5. So therefore, Jesus will not join you in hating people.

Matter of fact, if you make the foolish mistake of deciding that certain folks are lesser, those are the very ones he will expect you to love the most.

And finally:

6. Jesus demands visual love.

Not the cursory spoken kind or the single hug during greeting time in the sanctuary, but the temperate, compassionate affection that we grant to one another when periods of craziness seem to make us intolerable.

Are you experiencing some buyer’s remorse?

Are you afraid to admit it?

If you’re smart, like Philip, and you decide to hang around, there is always the possibility of a resurrection … and being filled with the Holy Spirit. 

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